What defines race in America? The answer is not always black and white. Biracial makeups and varied ethnicities complication delineations of race in American culture. Soledad O’Brien’s “Black In America” series attempts to address the weighted issue in its fifth installment, which airs this Sunday on CNN at 8 PM EST.

The documentary follows the story of two women with differing views on racial identity. A biracial woman (black mother, white father) doesn’t identify as black. A brown-skinned women whose parents were born in Africa considers herself black. Some don’t agree with her identification because her family hails from Egypt.

Soledad O’Brien is multiracial and identifies as black. She remembers taking “great offense” when people question her ethnicity, but has since moved past it: “I think I was part of “Black in America” even in the context of who is the filter of the story and so it became relevant, so I really stopped hating answering that question because I felt like my job is to elaborate and explain for people who I am.”

Black in America Five will also explore colorism to determine why people are discriminated against because of their skin color.

Watch a clip below featuring Soledad O’Brien and Michaela Angela Davis:

What do you think of the “Black in America” series? Will you watch the fifth installment? How do you define “blackness”?



  1. Wiseman


    Stereotypes of the Brazilian mulatto and negro: The sexual connotation of the black Brazilian
    by José Nunez

    The centuries-old stereotypes to which blacks are connected and enrooted should not be a source of pride for anyone, these are the characterizations to which the negro has been stigmatized throughout history that have the power to keep him in the same condition of any black slave. There are many stigmas, but the most troublesome are those related to sexuality and sex, this sexual look on the black man and black woman is a prison of our colonial history and slavery in Brazil, from a time when black women were sexual objects of plantation masters and their children, and black men were desired by white women because of their physical vigor and their lack of civility and morality, in the white and Christian manner, which allowed them sexual practices and performances that for the white, Christian man was taboo.

    Sexual intercourse with a slave, was certainly much more pleasurable for the slave owner than the intercourse with his wife, this is easy to explain knowing the human sexual depravity, the power relations involved in it and the distance between sex, morals and feelings. The mulata woman that gyrates her hips and the black man with the abnormal sexual black member should not provoke pride in anyone, these characterizations and the words of a sexual nature is a machine to degrade black men and women and reduce them to sex objects in the social imagination, leaving them where they were placed in slavery between the excluded and the inferior. Unfortunately, Brazilian Carnival is the most powerful machine that exists to reduce mulata women to their gyrating hips and the sexual connotation of her color.

    With a certain informality, I mean a movie, a comedy, where the character asks her husband to “do me like a negão”, this scene seems harmless, but it is more than enough to demonstrate the sexual connotation, fun and the function of sexual object in which the negro and the word “negão (big, black man)” are overloaded.

    Any reference to black is always associated with religious, culture-laden prejudices, work devalued and brutal work of all kinds, violence of every kind, crimes and exclusions of every kind, when there is some reference that apparently is valued, this enhancement is accompanied by stigmas, stereotypes that holds blacks to an incapacity and a grotesque caricature of disability of their behavior, culture and history.

    To have certainty that this sexual connotation of which the black is victim is in fact a machine of exclusion it is enough to note that the power, the portion of society that has all of its rights guaranteed and the elite, are dominated by individuals to whom are not are attributed not one sexual connotation or stereotype. The power, the rights and the elite are for people who own the superior knowledge, the intelligentsia and the sciences that build society in any part of the world. Black culture is reduced to cultural collaboration, allowed by those in power, entertainment and fun and profit of those in power, cultural heritage, manipulated and used to consumerist and capitalist taste, ie, uncharacterized product in the hands of power.

    I would not vote for a black man for president of the republic only because he has a huge sexual member, I would not vote for a mulata woman with her gyrating hips, but I would vote for a black man and a wonderfully intellectualized couple like the Obamas, who make us proud.

    Why not value our great poet Cruz e Souza (1), Machado de Assis (2), Lima Barreto (3), etc? Why not value the intelligentsia of Martin Luther King or Mandela’s wisdom.

    The appreciation of physical beauty in blacks is a reflection of the prejudices suffered by them and it is also a reflection of the sexual connotation of which blacks are victims since slavery, this behavior and this self-affirmation is the result of an inferior look upon themselves as if this was the only way for blacks to be valued by society, even if this sexual appreciation keeps them excluded and without civility. As if that weren’t enough, now there is an appreciation of elements that are a result of our exclusion, as is the case of the slums and of the customs resulting from our lack of knowledge and social chaos.

    The preservation of culture can also be the preservation of our exclusion and misery, conservation cynically permitted by the power that represses.

    1. 19th century Afro-Brazilian poet

    2. 19th/20th century Afro-Brazilian novelist, poet, playwright and short story writer, widely regarded as the greatest writer of Brazilian literature.

    3. 19th/20th century Afro-Brazilian novelist and journalist

    Source: Artigos Imparcialistas, Bolsa de Mulher

    Related articles

    The “negão” and the fetishization of interracial sex in Brazil

    Why do black Brazilian men prefer blondes? Part 3 – “They are more beautiful, more seductive, more cultured”, says one

    Why is the black woman seen as a sex object?

    The Brazilian mulata: black woman or something entirely different?

    Devassa Beer ordered to change its racist ad depicting black women’s sexuality

    Sexuality, racial imagery and the fetishization of the black male body in Brazil, Part 1

  2. Um…yikes, I read this entire post backwards and forwards and I can’t help but think of what Paul Mooney said best… “Everybody wants to be black, BUT NOBODY REALLY WANTS TO BE BLACK.” Everybody wants to say they are black or have black heritage but once it is time to show your recipes and be proud of it then the talks get quieter than a church mouse. I was over this series since the first installment this isn’t for us but non-blacks to dissect us. I would never tell someone how they should self-identified themselves or how they should be measured on the “blackness barograph” but all these splitting hairs makes you think what is the motive behind all of this and why all of a sudden is there a shift of control and “define” blackness…things that make you go hmmm

  3. Ms. Vee

    This topic is tired, old and flat out BS at this point.

    Why is there no effort to place whiteness or “Asian-ness” through a microscope? Being black is the same thing that makes you white, asian etc….having BOTH parents of the same race. Simple. Just plain and simple. Granted, one does not need to be 100% black to be black. If you look like Wesley Snipes and are 1/20 white, then that tiny fraction of white is irrelevant for the most part. However being 50% black or less doesn’t cut it. Biracial people are just that…biracial. Lets move on now and focus on the real issues plaguing the black community.

    • Beautiful Mic

      Why is ‘whiteness’, readily, placed as the face for blackness? It certainly isn’t the other way around.

      There would be no show “Who is Black in America?” hosted by someone who looks like James Brown.

  4. kj1986nyc

    Other races don’t want them yet to come to black people. the reject race to take representation from us. The mixed people would get no representation on their own

  5. You guys have to see what this is really all for. You’ve little Miss Soledad O’brien, the light-skinned, middle-class, born person of color. She wants here peers, the world, to say that she is authentically black and that she had a completely authentic black experience. Soledad, it’s okay, whatever brought you to this point in your life, that’s your path. No one can judge you unless you let them. Yes it’s hard to break from the residue of traumatic childhood experiences but come on. You are a person, and yes you have some heritage, and yes you look how you look. But only a small and shrinking minority of idiots and media jokers like yourself care that much about race. It’s all about class, under that there are plenty of sub-cultural identifiers that we all use. Blah, blah, blah, just get some corn rows and then maybe you can sell it. But quit wasting valuable airtime on this crap. Shake it off.

  6. CNN will only have black sistas that look like O’Brien, Whitfield…Halle Berry but never LOOK like say the woman on PBS, Joy Reid from the GRIO

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